Autism Spectrum Disorder, or autism, is a set of lifelong developmental differences. Developmental differences affect how a person perceives and processes information, reacts and learns as they grow up. Autism can affect how a person experiences and relates to the world around them.
In medical terminology, autism spectrum disorder is defined as a condition in which an individual has difficulties in social communication and may show restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, such as motor mannerisms, insistence on routine, sensory sensitivity and obsessive or unusual interests. Another way of understanding autism is as a natural part of 'neurodiversity'.
We all have differences in how we think and interact, and differences in what we like to do. When these differences make an individual feel less comfortable in certain situations, or when these differences lead to challenges in learning or daily living, it is helpful to use terminology (autism, autistic or autism spectrum) that enables the individual to access support where needed.
We all communicate differently. We have different accents and variations in the use of words across cultures and countries can lead to miscommunication.
Some of us may speak more confidently than others. Some may be more animated in their use of facial expressions and gestures. Others may feel very anxious at the thought of speaking out loud or may find that others do not easily understand what they are saying.
Some people prefer the company of one or two other people with whom they share a common understanding and interests.
Differences in social interaction may include difficulty understanding the subtleties of social situations, recognising and interpreting other people's feelings, managing emotions, or making and maintaining friendships.